Hangry Happens

It’s a feeling we’re all familiar with: your belly gets that empty ache and it’s not long before you’re snapping at your friends or getting grumpy with coworkers. We all know what it’s like to be hangry.

Apparently that hunger/anger, also known as hanger, isn’t a figment of our imaginations. Researchers at The Ohio State University found that the hungrier spouses were, the meaner they were to each other. The culprit? Low blood sugar.

In a 21-day observation of 107 couples, researchers found the lower blood sugar dropped, the angrier spouses reported being with each other. Basically, the studied confirmed that hanger is real, and it has consequences.

According to the researchers, this happens because blood glucose is the primary fuel for our brains. Everyday actions like controlling our emotions and not getting snappy takes energy, and with lower blood sugar, you may lack self-control.

The average person’s blood glucose levels fluctuate throughout the day, rising just after you’ve eaten, and waning between meals. For people with diabetes or hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, this can be dangerous. For healthy individuals, low blood sugar isn’t harmful, but it can make you cranky.

Though hanger sometimes gets the best of us, there are a few steps we can take to keep our blood glucose steady, and our relationships intact. If you don’t have the conditions mentioned above, let this be your guide to staving off those hangry emotions.

Eat regularly

It might seem like a no-brainer, but eating balanced, evenly-spaced meals and snacks is the best way to keep your blood sugar stable.

Contrary to popular belief, snacking can be a great way to help improve diet quality if you’re choosing portion-controlled options to keep blood sugar and appetite steady. Of course, we’re not talking cookies and chips. Snacks should have a few key components to keep not only your blood sugar steady, but good-for-you choices that contain healthy fats, fiber and protein.

Snacks like nuts and nut butters, veggies and hummus, or berries with Greek yogurt can keep you from getting cranky with your boss when she asks you to redo that midday assignment.

Don’t eat just anything

It’s important to keep a consistent eating schedule as best you can, but sometimes we all get hangry.

When you start to feel hungry, it’s tempting to grab for the nearest bag of salty snacks to save yourself. Fight that urge!

Your body is probably craving starchy snacks like handfuls of pretzels or French fries because simple carbohydrates break down quickly into sugars, boosting your blood sugar. Just like low blood sugar can make you cranky, marked fluctuations in blood sugar over time may lead to health issues. Researchers at Harvard University’s School of Public Health note that a food’s glycemic index, a measure of how carbohydrates impact your blood sugar, can be a helpful tool to keep regulated.

Foods that rank high on the glycemic index cause sudden rises in your blood sugars, while those low on the glycemic index help keep your blood sugar steady. Foods low on the scale release sugars into your body more steadily, regulating your blood glucose level as opposed to the high-level foods that give you a quick burst of sugar but leave you crashing and unsatisfied later.

Harvard recommends snacks like bran cereals or an apple to get you some necessary carbs without overloading your system.

Don’t forget hydration

Low blood sugar isn’t the only factor that can decrease your mood, though. Researchers at the University of Connecticut found being even a little bit dehydrated can make you cranky.

Researchers found that people reported not only changes in mood, but difficulty completing tasks, fatigue and headaches when even the slightest bits of dehydration set in.

You can tell when you’re dehydrated if your mouth feels dry or sticky, if you’re feeling tired, if you have a headache, or if you’re thirsty.

There’s conflicting evidence on how much water we actually need per day. The old eight glasses per day is somewhat outdated, according to the Mayo Clinic, which recommends 13 cups of fluid (not just water) per day for men and 9 cups for women. The Mayo Clinic also points out that those recommendations can vary from person to person, based on environment, activity level and other factors.

If you want to play it safe, keep a water bottle nearby at all times and just keep sipping. Adding natural flavor to your water, like lemon, mint leaves or grapefruit slices, can keep things fun and interesting if plain old water gets boring.

It’s important to avoid sugary drinks like sodas or sports drinks to reduce excess calories and stick with water or seltzer or sparkling water to fizz things up.

We all want to put our best foot forward, but when we’re hangry and cranky it’s tough to do. Keep these tips in mind and maybe you’ll avoid your next argument with your partner.